Now that we have survived the Mayan apocolypse, i think it's safe to start with some predictions for the year to come. San Diego based ACTIVE Network (NYSE: ACTV), who services companies looking to get the most out of corporate events for those on both sides of the registration desk, released their outlook for 2013 with 5 trends they see transforming the industry over the next 12 months.

According to analysts from the Aberdeen Group, spending on corporate events and meetings will grow by about 20% over the next 2 years in the U.S.1 And with increased focus on ROI and maintaining budgets, company stakeholders will command higACTIVE Network Mobile App for Conference Screenshother expectations from these events. Which leads right into the first of 5 trends, an increasing emphasis on making events 'smarter':

  1. Increasingly Smart Events: While around 200 million people attended 1.8 million events at a direct cost of $263 billion in 2011, only around 25% of companies actually look at what they spend against their budgets1. “In 2013, we expect to see more organizations choosing event technology that helps them increase efficiency, extend engagement and grow their business across various types of events in their portfolio,” said JR Sherman, Senior Vice President of Business Solutions at ACTIVE Network. “We anticipate there will be an increased demand for technology solutions that ensure ‘smart events’ from the top down—and the bottom up.”
  2. Strategic Meeting Management Tools Drive Efficiency: With the average organization spending around 9% of their total budget on meetings and events, tools to analyze, chart and report on costs will drive efficiencies2. Much in the same way automation tools have increased marketing, sales and customer service efficiencies, event planners will increasingly rely on automated tools to understand costs surrounding events and look to streamline and consolidate where they can.
  3. Consolidation of Event Management Solutions: Usually companies will rely on numerous points of interaction for event management. Using one tool to manage meetings, another to source vendors and yet another to measure attendee participation and satisfaction. “Over the next year, we expect companies will invest more money in consolidated event technology solutions that offer a one-stop-shop for organizers,” Sherman said. “Ideal solutions will have the ability to provide organizations with a single view into their strategic meeting management, attendee and engagement management and vendor sourcing, freeing up event planners to spend less time on manually pulling information from disparate systems and more time creating exceptional events.” 
  4. Increasing Use of Mobile Devices: According to Garter, 2013 will be the year that mobile officially overtakes the PC as the most common way to access the web3. This also makes it imperative for companies hosting events to integrate mobile before, during and after an event to accomodate attendees use of these devices. If you've been to a conference lately, you surely have noticed glancing around the room, the number of people looking down at their smartphones has skyrocketed. It's not just you. Attendees will demand a mobile app that lets them connect to other attendees, speakers, and exhibitors while at the same time letting them share their experiences via social outlets and get timely, relevant event information on the go to help navigate exhibits and trade show floors. 
  5. Technology to Provide the Hard Data used to Justify Event Spending: While the value of face-to-face interaction is well understood, hard data and actual numbers will be needed to justify spending on events where more detailed ROI metrics are needed to convince decision makers. Technology will make this possible in 2013. “Technology makes it possible to gather in-depth information on attendees’ interests and attitudes. With that data in hand, organizers can gauge whether their event strategy is working and alter it if necessary to help maximize their return on investment,” Sherman said. “Organizations will have the ability to take advantage of these capabilities to measure their results and fine-tune their meeting plans to get the most out of every interaction with attendees.” 

The Business Solutions technology suite provided by ACTIVE Network includes Conference™ for large flagship conferences, RegOnline® for attendee management solutions, StarCite® SMM for strategic meetings management and event expense management, and the StarCite® Supplier Marketplace to connect events with suppliers. For more information on ACTIVE Network Business Solutions please visit www.ACTIVEevents.com.

1. Strategic Meetings Management, Aberdeen Group, July 2012 

2. The Economic Significance of Meetings to the U.S. Economy, Convention Industry Council, February   2011

3. Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2012, Garter, November 2012

Disclosure: I am not affiliated with ACTIVE Network and have no equity holdings in the company whatsoever.